Post from Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic - September/October 2017
From September 15 to October 15, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. This observance encompasses many memorable dates of Latin American Heritage. Indeed, September 15 was chosen as the start of Hispanic Heritage Month because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua - all in 1821. Mexico, Chile, and Belize celebrate their independence days later in September.
Hispanic Heritage Month also memorializes October 12, 1492 - the date that Christopher Columbus arrived at San Salvador to initiate the long and important presence of Latino Americans in North America. National Hispanic Heritage Month grew out of "Hispanic Heritage Week," under President Lyndon B. Johnson, and was expanded to 30 days by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
Here at the EEOC, we started the celebration a little early. On September 11, I had the pleasure of signing a memorandum of understanding between the EEOC and the Peruvian government - our first MOU with Peru, our second with a South American country, and our fourth with an Hispanic nation (in addition to Peru, we have entered into MOUs with Mexico, Ecuador, and Honduras). These MOUs provide for outreach, education, training, and cooperation in the protection of workers' civil rights in employment.
The Hispanic slice of the American pie continues to grow, and includes corporate executives and farmworkers, telenovela stars and housemaids, lawyers and teachers, managers and entrepreneurs, doctors and nurses - in short, men and women from every profession and walk of life. We now have over 58 million Hispanic neighbors who are protected from the unmerited punishment of employment discrimination.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a reminder that we have to keep working as hard as we can, doing what we've been doing all along for so many people. First, of course, is proactive prevention. We educate employers and supervisors all over the country on their responsibilities under federal anti-discrimination laws, making sure they know exactly what those laws are and what they require. The EEOC's active and ongoing outreach to the Hispanic community includes those working in the agricultural, janitorial, and construction industries, which employ many temporary or seasonal workers, as well as others who are particularly vulnerable, in accordance with our Strategic Enforcement Plan.
Second, as we all know, we'll take firm action to protect every worker in the United States against discrimination when they suffer it. We receive and investigate charges; pursue settlements, mediation, and conciliation when we can; and litigate when we must.
Whatever that course turns out to be, we know what our job is here at the EEOC. We have the honor - and solemn responsibility - to defend all people working in the United States against employment discrimination. All of us, regardless of our national origin, are partners in that quest. Juntos venceremos - together we will win!